The same week a Red Bank police officer sued his bosses over what he calls improper police work, another patrolman wrote an open letter that identified problems and offered ways to improve the department for citizens.
"I have no agenda or anything to gain," Officer Mickey Robinson writes. "I would like to stay at this department and help it grow."
Robinson addressed the letter to Red Bank administrative staff and patrol officers, but he hand-delivered it to City Manager Chris Dorsey and interim police Chief Dan Knight, two men who have taken heat for the controversy surrounding the city's law enforcement division.
Reacting to "significant turmoil" and questionable personnel moves, Dorsey recently fired ex-Chief Larry Sneed, who almost immediately named several city officials and Red Bank in a $1.5 million lawsuit.
On Wednesday, Officer Bradley Hanon sued Sneed and three other city officials for "defamation, humiliation and mental anguish" after he blew the whistle on several alleged incidents of improper police work.
Robinson took a different approach. His two-page letter identifies structure, leadership and morale as the most pressing issues facing the department, issues that he said ultimately undermine security in Red Bank.
He also referred to a "war" between administration and patrol officers and said there must be an easier way to settle misunderstandings.
"I like this city and this department but a change must be made," Robinson writes. "How can we as officers hold our citizens to (certain) standards if we can't do it with each other?"
The police policy manual "can be interpreted in many ways which I believe can lead to an employee's termination or written reprimand due to a supervisor's ... personal opinion," the letter states.
That vagueness prompted Robinson to write the letter and show it to several fellow patrol officers before meeting with Knight, who called the letter "constructive" on Friday.
Knight said the letter influenced the department's first written policy on take-home cars and a rotating off-day schedule that would allow officers with weekdays off to get weekends occasionally. The chief called both changes "morale boosters."
"He didn't come to me with just problems, he came to me with possible solutions," Knight said. "You can't change the mood of a department with the flip of a switch. Officer Robinson knows that. I can't fix a problem if I don't know it's there."